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United States v. Metcalf

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

February 2, 2018

United States of America Plaintiff- Appellee
Randy Joe Metcalf, also known as Randy Joe Weyker Defendant-Appellant Cato Institute; Reason Foundation; Individual Rights Foundation; Gail Louise Heriot; Peter N. Kirsanow; Center for Equal Opportunity Amici on Behalf of Appellant(s)

          Submitted: September 21, 2017

         Appeal from United States District Court for the Northern District of Iowa - Dubuque

          Before SMITH, Chief Judge, WOLLMAN and GRUENDER, Circuit Judges.


         A jury convicted Randy Joe Metcalf of committing a hate crime in violation of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009, 18 U.S.C. § 249(a)(1) (the Act).[1] The district court[2] sentenced Metcalf to the statutory maximum sentence of 120 months' imprisonment. Metcalf appeals, arguing that the Act is unconstitutional because Congress lacked the authority to enact it under the Thirteenth Amendment. Metcalf also argues that the district court erred in denying his request for a proposed jury instruction on character evidence and that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction. We affirm.

         I. Background

         On January 11, 2015, Metcalf and his fiancee Noelle Weyker went to a bar in Dubuque, Iowa, where Metcalf met a friend, Jeremy Sanders (Jeremy) and Jeremy's son, Joseph Sanders (Joseph). As the evening progressed, Metcalf, Weyker, Jeremy, and Joseph drank alcohol and played pool. As recorded by the bar's surveillance cameras, at around 11:00 p.m. Metcalf became involved in an argument with Katie Flores, Sarah Kiene, and Lamarr Sandridge, an African American man. Although the confrontation was mostly verbal, Metcalf pushed Sandridge before Becky Burks, the bartender, and Ted Stackis, the bar's owner, intervened.

         Following the confrontation, Metcalf spoke with Stackis, bragging about how he had burned crosses at an African American family's home in Dubuque. Metcalf told Stackis, "I hate f---ing n----rs, " and asked if Stackis wanted anyone taken care of. Metcalf and Stackis then went outside, where Metcalf showed Stackis his swastika tattoo and repeated how he "hate[d] them f---ers."

         As the night continued, Metcalf, Flores, and Kiene continued to harass each other, with Metcalf referring to Flores and Kiene as "n----r loving c--ts" and "n----r lovers." Metcalf also continued to use the word "n----r." The women responded by calling Metcalf a "stupid f---er." While visiting with Jeremy, Metcalf displayed his swastika tattoo and said, "That's what I'm about."

         Tensions in the bar peaked around 1:20 a.m., when Kiene confronted Metcalf. Weyker started recording the confrontation on her cell phone and a fight ensued when Flores slapped Weyker's phone out of her hands. During the melee, Metcalf charged at Flores, hit her in the head, slammed her into the bar, and pulled her to the ground by her hair. Other individuals then piled on top of each other. Trying to stop the attack, Sandridge struck Metcalf a few times. Jeremy then grabbed Sandridge and held him in a headlock, while son Joseph punched Sandridge in the face ten to fifteen times. As people got up from the floor, Metcalf pushed past Jeremy and Flores to get to Sandridge, who was lying disoriented on the floor. Metcalf then repeatedly kicked and stomped on Sandridge's head, saying, "f---ing n----r" and "die n----r" until Burks pushed him away.

         Metcalf left the bar momentarily, but he soon returned and maneuvered around the people standing near Sandridge. As Sandridge lay on the ground, dazed from the initial attacks, Metcalf kicked and stomped on Sandridge's head a second time, continuing in his attack until Flores pushed him away. Metcalf responded by slapping Flores to the ground and walking away. The day following the attack, Metcalf told Jeremy that "the n----r got what he had coming to him."

         Metcalf was indicted on one count of violating Section 249(a)(1) of the Act. The indictment alleged that Metcalf had "willfully caused bodily injury to [Sandridge], who is African American, because of [Sandridge's] actual or perceived race, color, and national origin." Metcalf challenged the indictment on constitutional grounds and filed a motion to dismiss, which the district court denied.

         The parties agreed during trial that Metcalf had attacked Sandridge, leaving for the jury the question whether Sandridge's race was the reason for the attack. Witnesses for the government, including Stackis, Flores, Kiene, Burks, and Jeremy, testified about Sandridge's use of the word "n----r, " his swastika tattoo, and his statements made throughout the night of the attack and the next day. In response, Metcalf called seven witnesses who had seen him interact with African American people, all of whom testified that they believed Metcalf was not racist. Based on this testimony, Metcalf requested the following jury instruction:

You have heard the testimony of (Witness}, who said that the defendant has a reputation and character for a lack of racism. Along with all the other evidence you have heard, you may take into consideration what you believe about the defendant's lack of racism when you decide whether the government has proved, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant committed the crime. Evidence of the defendant's lack of racism ...

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